Ranked eighth by MLB.com on the 2017 prospect watch list, Ronald Acuna has continued to prove himself at every professional level. The Venezuelan international was born on Dec. 18, 1997, and was signed in 2014 by the Atlanta Braves as a 16-year-old for $100,000.
This deal was an enormous steal for Atlanta, as they spent a combined seven million dollars on prospects Kevin Maitan and Abraham Gutierrez, who are both 17-year-olds playing in the Gulf Coast league.
At 17 years old, Acuna spent time in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian Leagues, where in 55 games he batted a combined .269 with four home runs, 18 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. He took a huge leap forward in 2016, batting .312 in 42 games in primarily the South Atlantic League, proving he is one of the Braves top prospects moving forward.
In 2017, Acuna began the year in high-A, although after batting .287 with 19 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 28 games, he was called up to double-A. Acuna continued his tear, batting .326 with nine home runs, 30 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 57 games for the Mississippi Braves.
The 19-year-old was then called-up to triple-A Gwinnett, where he has since batted .358 with eight home runs, 27 RBIs and eight stolen bases in 43 games. Acuna is currently on a 14-game hitting streak, where he is slashing .406/.418/.672 with four home runs, 13 runs scored, 14 RBIs and five stolen bases.
His heroic rise up the minor league ladder has been halted, as he has yet to receive a call to the majors despite his incredible levels of success.
Give this man a chance
Acuna has continuously decreased his strikeout rate, while increasing his home run to fly ball rate at each succeeding level. He has also shown the ability to hit the ball to all fields, as he is currently hitting 36.8 percent of balls to the opposite field.
His speed is worth noting, as his speed score has ranked anywhere from 5.4 to 9.3 in his career, which is recognized as above average to excellent according to Fangraphs.com. His batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, measures over .400 in 2017, although this seems to be more skill based than luck, as BABIP has not dropped .359 since rookie ball in 2015.
According to MLB.com writer Mark Bowman, former Atlanta Brave superstars Chipper and Andruw Jones had “raved about Acuna” during spring training. The five-tool prospect has been compared to the likes of Starling Marte, who is a two-time Gold Glove winner and one-time All-Star.
With the Braves 19 games back of the Washington Nationals in the National League East, and 11 games back in the wild card race, it seems like a perfect time to bring up the red-hot 19-year-old.
With Ender Inciarte being the everyday center fielder, and veterans Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis in the corners, there is no place for Acuna to play, hence why he has been kept in the minors, as they want him to get as many at-bats as possible.
With no real chance at making the playoffs, the Braves should give Acuna a chance to begin his major league career. He will undoubtedly need to make an abundance of adjustments, so why not allow him to begin progressing, and/or struggling, now when the results do not matter?
The Braves would be stupid to allow veterans like Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis to steal major league at-bats away from their up-and-coming prospects like Acuna, which is why Acuna will likely be called up in September, rather than getting his first shot with the big league club next April.
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